Editorial: Fight poverty by curbing teen pregnancy
Programs to reduce teen pregnancy in Michigan appear to be paying off with a lower rate of expectant teenagers, and that should pay off in a future drop in poverty. Initiatives that work should be supported and expanded.
The reduction in teen births came even while the number of abortions was also falling, indicating much of the decline is due to pregnancy prevention.
The Michigan League for Public Policy reports that concentrated state and local efforts over the past 20 years have resulted in a 40 percent drop in Michigan’s teen births. The state’s overall annual teen birth rate of 24 births per 1,000 was below the national average of 27 teen births per 1,000 in 2013, and had dropped to 7 percent of all births in 2013 from 13 percent in 1992.
But, as the report cautions, the annual teen birth rate remains among the highest of any industrialized country and significant disparities persist in low-income communities and cities with high minority populations.
More intense efforts are needed, particularly in major cities such as Detroit. Emphasis should be placed on those programs that have proven successful. The programs not only often provide needed medical treatment but also counseling and education on how to avoid becoming pregnant.
At the state level, the Michigan Abstinence Program (MAP) promotes abstinence from sexual activity and related risky behaviors, such as the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
The Taking Pride In Prevention (TPIP) program is designed to educate adolescents on both abstinence and contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. It also explores subjects such as healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy and healthy life skills.
The Michigan Family Planning Program has served almost 16,000 teens. It provides reproductive health exams, contraceptive services, sexually transmitted infection screening and treatment services, among others. It also stresses education and counseling.
All of these programs are financed with federal funds.
In Detroit, the Pathway Academy, a charter school for pregnant and parenting teens, and Henry Ford New Center One’s Women’s Health Clinic have been noted for their work with young mothers. They are also supported through federal grants and local funding.
As Alicia Guevara Warren, of the Michigan League for Public Policy, notes “When we look at what’s going on in the communities, the solution isn’t a one size fits all. Each community needs to see what works for them and we need to fund those programs.”